On 17 October 2012, in Oslo, Norway, after 64 years of conflict, peace talks between the Colombian government and FARC guerrillas formally started. The permanent peace agreement and ceasefire is to be finalized before 15 November. Here's a bit of background about the conflict.
Around 1948, when the Conservatives returned to power, the government encouraged Conservative-party peasants to seize the agricultural lands of Liberal-party peasants. This provoked a civil war between the communist liberals and conservatives for control of the country’s agricultural land. It was called La Violencia ("The Violence"). It continued until 1958 and at least 200,000 people are estimated to have been killed.
The FARCThe communist peasants fled to escape the violence and formed revolutionary groups, such as the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). Initially they fought for the rights of the poor, but when the cocaine boom started in the 70s and 80s, the drug trade became their main source of income. Only a small percentage of guerillas have their own drug factories, but the FARC tax the drug-makers, forcing them to pay them "to protect your river so you can ship your drugs to the USA." The U.S. remains the world's largest consumer of cocaine.
[Above] "Don't have the Coke that kills"
Today the FARC are no longer about fighting for any particular rights; they are just about money - taxation of drugs, extortion and kidnapping. They claim that they need the money to fund their revolution, as they are technically fighting for equal distribution of wealth. (I feel compelled to add a sarcastic haha here.)
The ParamilitaryThey are an army, hired illegally by the rich to protect their properties. They are typically more dangerous than the guerillas because, although they are just as involved in the drug trade, they have no ideology. The Colombian government has described them as: death squads, bands of hired assassins, self-defense groups, or groups that carry out their own justice. Human rights groups say right-wing paramilitary groups have been responsible for at least 70 to 80% of political murders in Colombia per year, with the remainder committed by leftist guerrillas and government forces.
The Colombian MilitaryThe father of former president, Álvaro Uribe, was a wealthy landowner who was killed by the FARC rebels during a 1983 kidnap attempt. So when Uribe came to power, he kicked things up a notch, to great effect. He initiated lots of military action and demanded results. Killers were rewarded for the results they achieved in the fight against the guerillas.
[Below] "Uribe for Miliatary Bases"
Unfortunately, this led to the horrible Falso Positivo ("False Positive") scandal. In an effort to inflate body counts and receive promotions or other benefits, the military had poor, homeless or mentally impaired civilians lured to remote parts of the country with offers of work, and then killed them. They dressed up the civilians as guerrillas and presented them to authorities as rebels killed in battle, i.e. positive kills. Hence the expression, False Positive. As of June 2012, a total of 3,350 such cases have been investigated.
Many people have been displaced by th FARC or the government. The military evacuated and consequently displaced many people from their homes and lands in the country in order to control the area. Hence, many people were forced to join the FARC because they had nowhere else to go.
Lets hope the negotiations in November go well.
[Above] "It is not the solution"